Pen Pal Project
The Pen Pal Project is one of Volunteer Connections longest running, community engagement programs. For over 20 years, adult volunteers are matched with area 5th graders for a monthly exchange of “pen pal” letters. Adults and students know each other only by name, and whatever they learn from each other over the course of the school year writing project. At the end of the school year, the adults meet their pen pals for the one and only time at a special dessert party in the student’s classroom. The project is a way for the students to practice communication skills. For adults, especially those who want to volunteer with children, but have limited time, it is a wonderful way to learn about life from a 5th grade perspective.
In the beginning, the student letters may be little more than a line or two. The spelling, grammar, or penmanship may not be perfect, and that is ok! The objective is not to correct any of those things, but simply to be a positive, encouraging, adult who just communicates via the written word! Most adults prefer to exchange letters the old-fashioned way- handwritten in an envelope, but others use their computers writing emails. Depending on the classroom, the teacher may have students hand write letters or have them use email. Either way, the monthly exchange of letters is processed through the Volunteer Connections office.
At the end of the school year, the adult commits to attending the meet and greet dessert party. It only takes a moment for laughter-filled conversations to fill the classrooms, as letter writers see each other face to face. There is usually a lot to talk about, because you’ve come to know each other through the monthly exchange of letters.
Recruitment for adult Pen Pals is done in late summer with the first letters exchanged in September. The Volunteer Connections office contacts teachers once school has started to compile classroom rosters, then we match up the students with the adults. A school coordinator stays in touch with adults and classrooms to keep track of letter submission deadlines. Adult Pen Pals do not even have to track their volunteer time; we automatically credit you a half-hour per student letter each month. The end of the year party usually takes about an hour at the school, with the expectation that you will bring a dessert to share with your student.
All potential adult Pen Pals agree to pass a required background check, write one letter each month during the school year, abide by the writing guidelines submitting letters as directed by the deadline, and commit to bringing a dessert or treat and attending the end of the year party in late May or early June. To become or Pen Pal or for more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.